01 Wondrous Romance ~ Mystic Square
02 Dream Express
03 Magic Formation ~ Magic Square
04 Dimension of Reverie
05 Spiritual Heaven
06 Romantic Children
07 Plastic Mind
08 Maple Wise
09 Forbidden Magic
10 Crimson Maiden ~ Crimson Dead!!
11 Treacherous Maiden ~ Judas Kiss
12 The Last Judgement
13 Doll of Misery
14 World's End
15 Legendary Illusion ~ Infinite Being
16 Alice in Wonderland
17 The Grimoire of Alice
18 Shinto Shrine
20 Eternal Paradise
21 Mystic Dream
22 Soul's Resting Place
23 Peaceful Romancer
Circle: Team Shangai Alice
Touhou Wiki Link
This CD reminds me of the Japanese countryside. I stumbled upon it randomly when I was in a Toranoana and heard the music playing from a stereo. Judging from the PC98 FM synth, I assumed it was from Etrian Odyssey or something similar, but I grabbed all three CDs, since they were pretty cheap. I later found out they were from the early Touhou shooters, which were, of course, for the old Japanese PCs. I listened to all of them during my train rides to the cities outside Tokyo, which is why I picture the long, empty, and particularly wet expanses of mountains and rice fields.
It’s a strange soundtrack for such a backdrop, I admit, but it feels personally important. There’s something lonely and poignant about PC98 synth, which is why it serves as such an excellent backdrop for the dungeon crawlers like Brandish and Dinosaur, which is probably why I was drawn to it, being alone and socially isolated in a foreign country.
Touhou games are shooters and so the music is much faster paced than the moodier Falcom stuff, louder with stronger beat, and much cheerier - it's not too far off from Yuzo Koshiro's work on Sorcerian. The melody in all of the songs are quite strong, feeling almost like they were designed to be played in a rock band, and there’s a main motif repeated throughout many of them. You know how the Genesis FM synth pulled out some rocking heavy metal-style music with MUSHA and Lightening Force? This sounds similar, but the PC98 is less gritty overall, so it’s a bit easier to listen to if you’re one of those people prejudiced against Genesis music.
The lack of variation in style and synth does mean that it tends to blend together, especially across all three albums, but that doesn’t meant they aren’t excellent. My favorite album is Vol. 2, for the game Mystic Square, just because there isn’t a boring song in the whole bunch – even the title screen song is awesome. Some of the later songs are a bit more slow paced and sound like something out of an RPG, but their quality is just as high.
I later played the game on an emulator and realized why Touhou games hadn’t really picked up in popularity until it hit Windows – the PC98 was pretty bad about animating sprites and they feel really cheap, and even a bit boring. I’d almost recommend the music without the game, because that way you can imagine something more exciting. In my case, it just makes me wistful for Tokyo.